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Major change in American politics takes place when an old political order collapses and a new one emerges to replace it, sometimes through violent struggle. Before the Civil War and Reconstruction, for example, states enjoyed autonomy over most areas of politics–including whether or not to maintain slavery. Afterwards, the Federal Government began to assert itself vis-á-vis civil rights and liberties in ways it had never previously done. Relatedly, before the Great Depression, state government basically managed their own economies; but the New Deal gave the federal government power to create and manage a new, national economy. What are the deep sources of these architectonic changes? Who or what is responsible for them? And what is the best way to study them? This course will survey the alternative and competing ways in which leading thinkers and scholars answer these questions. Some argue that dynamic individuals–such as Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt–drive political change, and that change would not happen without such leaders. Others contend that these so-called “leaders” are themselves mere bi-products of impersonal forces, such as party realignments, critical elections, and social, economic, and technological changes. Our goal will be to understand these theories on their own terms, and then to evaluate them with reference to some case studies from American history. To this end, we will study theoretical writings but we will also read selections from histories and biographies that draw a more intimate, nuanced picture of the leaders, groups, and personalities involved in America’s most transformative political moments.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
several short essays, weekly writing assignments, and a longer research paper with presentation.
previous course in Leadership Studies, American politics or American history
Leadership Studies concentrators and Political Science majors
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit: